Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
There was commotion in Benue State, on Tuesday, after thousands of state and local government workers got the shocking news about the Federal Government’s recall of the N14.9 billion final tranche of the Paris Club debt refund already paid to the state, last week.
Some workers slumped slumped at the state secretariat when they heard the money had been recalled.
They were later revived by their colleagues.
On Monday, Governor Samuel Ortom had directed the state’s Ministry of Finance to commence immediate disbursement of the funds to workers.
Ortom had initially set up a committee to oversee disbursement of the funds to state workers, local government staff and pensioners, but shelved the idea due to public outcry against the decision.
It was gathered that civil servants were owed seven months salaries while local government workers and pensioners were owed 11 and 15 months, respectively.
Some workers said government is trying to eliminate Benue workers.
“My joy knew no bounds when I first heard the news of the release of the funds to the state government.
“Then, I felt all my financial problems were over and I would be able to pay my debts.
“You can now see why I am uncontrollably angry at the news of the recall of the funds,” a staff told Daily Sun.
Another worker, who also blamed the state government for delaying disbursement of the funds, posited that if not for the committee that the governor set up initially, workers’ bank accounts would have long been credited with the money and there wouldn’t have been anything left for the federal government to reclaim.
“The state government wasted time with the money. That is why the federal government thought of recalling the money.
“If they had paid us as soon as they got it, by now, nobody would have been talking of recalling anything.”
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Yet, another worker said: “This is unfair. Having raised our hope, this (federal) government has dashed our hope.
“I have promised those I owed that I would pay part of the debt today. I have also planned to use part of the money to buy books for my children and pay their school fees.”
When contacted, the state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC,) Comrade Godwin Anya, expressed shock over the development.
“I don’t know the reason for the recall of the Paris club debt refund.
“Everybody had expcted to be paid because the governor, on Monday, directed payment of arrears.
“I don’t know the reason for that nonsense; I don’t know where the country is heading to,” Anya said.
Meanwhile, the state government has described recall of the Paris Club debt refund as confirmation of the trajectory of intimidation and victimisation by the powers that be.
Special Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua, noted that it is strange in accounting parlance to pay money into somebody’s or government’s account and suddenly withdraw it.
“This is another form of impunity, desperation and intemperance by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and it is unfortunate because the money is what is due the state.
“This was not a gift. It was the legitimate right of the state government.
“This is part of series of moves aimed at subjugating the people.
“This action has shown clearly that the APC cannot protect the people.
“There is serious anger in the land as a result of recalling of the federal government’s action.
“The people now know who their enemies and oppressors are. Benue people should rise up and vote out APC government in 2019,” he said.